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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kicking the habit: Orangutan addicted to smoking cigarettes thrown to her by tourists is removed from 'appalling' zoo

By Wil Longbottom

Addicted: Shirley, a 25-year-old orangutan, has been removed from a zoo in Jahor state, Malaysia, where she used to smoke cigarettes thrown to her by visitors

A captive orangutan who would smoke cigarettes thrown to her by zoo visitors is being forced to kick the habit.

Malaysian authorities have seized adult orangutan Shirley from a state-run zoo in the southern Jahor state last week after she was deemed to be living in poor conditions.

The 25-year-old animal is now being quarantined at another zoo in a neighbouring state and is expected to be sent to a wildlife centre on Borneo within weeks.

Melaka Zoo director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said that Shirley is not being provided with any more cigarettes because 'smoking is not normal behaviour for orangutans'.

The zoo where Shirley lived in Jahor hit the headlines earlier this year because of the appalling conditions animals were kept in.

The female orangutan competed with cage-mate Abu for cigarette butts thrown by tourists to satisfy her smoking habit.

A 'no smoking' sign was put up outside her cage, but authorities did nothing to stop people throwing the cigarettes inside.

New home: The female would compete with her cage-mate to grab cigarette butts thrown into her enclosure

Appalling conditions: Shirley will now be moved to a wildlife centre in Borneo

Shirley spent most of her time tearing apart drinks cans and chewing on food wrappers thrown at her by visitors.

Crocodiles were left to struggle in water-less enclosures while lions and tigers were kept in cages barely big enough to house them.

Attempts by the Malaysian government's wildlife ministry Perhilitan to clamp down on the appalling conditions in the country's zoos - rated among the worst in the world - have been virtually ignored.

Last October a new law gave zoos six months to clean up their act, but little progress has been made.



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